(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
Defend Democracy: Slogan at the Grass Roots
From Our Special Correspondent in Kolkata
THE first phase of elections in West Bengal will be held on April 18, in 54 constituencies of the northern districts. Till date, the main mode of campaign, particularly of the Left Front is intensive door-to-door contact with the people. Group meetings, grass root level meetings are being organised in thousands throughout the state. In most of these meetings, interactions are taking place including questions, suggestions and even open criticisms.
The Left Front, in their campaign, is highlighting the anti-people policies of the UPA government, particularly fuelling price rise and successive attacks on the livelihood of the people, like cutting subsidies for food and fertilisers. One of the important components of this campaign is exposing the difference between the two UPAs - one before 2008 when it was supported by the Left from outside, and the UPA-2 in which Trinamool Congress is a partner. The new wave of pro-corporate reforms like the banking bill, the pension bill etc are a reflection of this difference.
In West Bengal, the TMC and the Congress are not merely ‘opposition’; they have in effect run hundreds of panchayats at village and block level from 2008. The TMC has run South 24 Parganas and East Midnapore district councils also. In these three years, a large part of rural Bengal has seen widespread corruption and inefficiency of the TMC. Both their district councils are worst run among the 18 districts. They are lagging far behind the others in terms of MGNREGA or other rural developmental programmes. This has generated discontent even among the people who have voted in their favour. This has become one of the major aspects of the campaign.
From 2009 onwards, railway minister Mamata Banerjee has used railways for narrow political purposes. While making Indian railways bankrupt, she has announced numerous projects and was busy in the stone-laying spree. Even in their manifesto, the TMC has tried to project railways as a model for development. The dubious nature of this claim is being explained by the Left Front in the campaign. Apart from other aspects, one of the major questions is the total failure of railways to generate employment. Fraudulent campaign by the TMC has been exposed to a great degree after the self-immolation of a TMC activist, Prasun Datta, in front of railway minister’s residence. Datta, it is alleged, was promised a job in railways, which was later bluntly denied.
West Bengal can never relieve her from the dark memories of seventies, when the state witnessed worst kind of political violence and murderous attacks on democracy. The anarchy and violence let loose by the TMC in the recent past has only reinforced that unwanted memory. In this year’s election campaign, the future of peace and democracy in the state has become a major issue. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya has expressed hope with confidence that the people of West Bengal would never invite “Change for destruction”. The Left front chairman, Biman Basu, has repeatedly termed this election battle as a battle to defend democracy of the people.
However, the main thrust of the Left Front’s campaign is on the positive achievements of the government all through the 34 years and particularly its successes in the last five years. During this period, significant progress has been registered in agricultural production, industrialisation despite obstacles from the opposition, expansion of health and education facilities, power generation and distribution. But the hallmark of the government was the steadfast defense of the poor and the toiling people. This has been reflected through the provident fund scheme for the workers of the unorganised sector, social security projects for the workers of different sectors, providing rice at Rs 2 per kg for the poor etc. This has also helped to mobilise toiling masses around the Left. The stream of projects for the minorities, including reservation for OBC Muslims has created a renewed trust for the Left Front. Incidentally, on all these questions, the TMC is very shaky and failed to clear their position even in the poll manifesto.